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Chris Ryall

Chris Ryall is an industry insider with strong, outspoken opinions that readers enjoy, whether they agree, or take issue, with his viewpoint.

Chris actually writes two columns, The Ryall Report, a general "whatever's on his mind" article which is often filed from exotic travel locations, and The Spa Scene, about (surprise) spas - which is an absolute must for any spa enthusiast or anyone with spa loving clients.

The columns run on alternate Tuesdays.

RECENT ARTICLES


US AND CUBA POLICY CHANGE
Bad for US, good for Canada

28 NOV 2017: Reversing the Obama touch. It seems any piece of legislation or policy that former President Barack Obama brought forward or implemented Donald Trump decides to change or eliminate. Earlier this month the US Department of the Treasury announced amendments to the Cuba sanctions policy. Some US based travel agents, tour operators and tourism suppliers will be negatively affected by the amendments and policy changes. For Canadian travel trade and consumers though, it could be seen as a positive development. Why?

 


WACKY WELLNESS Treatments Far From the Norm

14 NOV 2017: November is the month I dread most. Darkness reigns for the morning wake-up and again at 5pm. The leaves have fallen and before winter snow blankets the ground and adorns the tree it is an ugly, colourless landscape. People start bundling up in extra layers. Moods change with the thought of a long winter ahead. Restaurants and cafes close up their outdoor dining and sitting areas. If there ever is a time of year for a spa respite it’s this time. But why go for just the standard Swedish massage or hot stone treatment? Get adventurous, step outside your comfort zone and into some wacky and weird spa treatments from blood facials and beer baths to marijuana massages.

 


TRAVEL LISTS AND TRENDS
Should You Believe Them

31 OCT 2017: This is the time of year when a barrage of stories begins appearing in the media about the latest travel trends and hottest destinations for the upcoming year. Notable travel publications and publishers like Lonely Planet, Conde Naste, Travel and Leisure and Fodor’s come out with their lists every year. Do these predictions of the hottest destinations and emerging trends ever come true? Do agents pay attention to any of these lists?

 


NOT JUST A PRETTY TOWN

19 SEP 2017: Perth, Ontario, known as the “Prettiest Town in Ontario” was originally a military settlement dating back to 1816. It is located in Lanark County between Kingston and Ottawa. Perhaps it’s the Tay River flowing gently into the centre of town, Stewart Park behind the Town Hall looking resplendent and green or the century old stone buildings and one-of-the-kind boutique shops lining the town’s main street. It was time to revisit this outdoor recreational playground while indulging in my favourite past time – lying on a massage table and getting pampered. Go with what you are good at.

 


SUPPORTING TEXAS
The Travel Industry Cares

05 SEP 2017: Hurricane Harvey unleashed a torrent of destruction on Texas leaving a path of homelessness and despair to hundreds of thousands of people. Harvey’s devastating effects will last not days but years. Some communities have been totally destroyed by the floods. We have had daily visual reports of people wading through toxic flood waters, stranded on rooftops and thousands sleeping in shelters. Thankfully there have also been uplifting stories of total strangers risking their lives for fellow citizens and the herculean efforts of police, fire, National Guard, FEMA and other aid organizations. The travel industry has also stepped up to the plate and assisted in a variety of ways to address the huge need.

 


GARDEN WELLNESS AT LANGDON HALL

23 AUG 2017: On a bright sunny day on the outskirts of Cambridge, Ontario I witnessed a man in a dapper royal blue tailored shirt and black pants foraging for Mother Nature’s finest bounty. This is no ordinary man. Jason Bangerter is executive chef at Langdon Hall’s Country House Hotel and Spa - a Relais and Châteaux award-winning five-diamond resort. Langdon Hall’s garden is filled with more than 500 herbs and vegetables. Radishes, lemongrass, artichoke, coriander, peppers and more grow in this garden metropolis. The herbs are not only used to treat the palates of diners but also for many of the nature infused body and aesthetic treatments in the spa.

 


GETTING HIGH ON TOURISM

08 JUL 2017: A recent TV news report on a legal cannabis company buying a small California town and turning it into a new pot tourism and eco destination garnered lots of attention including mine. With Prime Minister Trudeau’s government introducing a bill in the spring to legalize recreational use of marijuana by July 2018 and other US states and destinations introducing similar legislation will pot tourism go on a Rocky Mountain high or just be marijuana proponents puffing smoke? Would travel agents book clients on a pot tour or a hotel that openly allows pot smoking and hands out vaporizers?

 


HYGGE CULTURE IN COPENHAGEN

25 JUL 2017: Have you experienced hygge? The word, “hygge” (pronounced hooga) is a Danish concept and though there is no precise English translation according to the Oxford dictionary it loosely translates into, “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” I can categorically say I experienced hygge at the Hotel Kong Arthur’s Ni’mat Massage and Spa.

 


AIRLINES AND PASSENGERS KEEPING THE PEACE

11 JUL 2017: It’s becoming almost a daily occurrence with incidents involving unruly and violent passengers affecting a flight and in some cases causing the plane to divert back. When will this all stop? Who is at fault? How can we bring peace again to the skies?


Thailand Travel Mart 2017
New Canadian Office, Local Experiences Promoted

09 JUL 2017: Someone might call it the Midas Touch but Thailand seems to have found the Thailand Tourism Touch. Through a combination of strategic marketing, identifying the right tourism trends and increased marketing Thailand is a destination that appeals to many visitors. This was evident at the 16th edition of the Thailand Travel Mart held recently at the Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Centre. For Canadian travel trade and travellers the news was especially positive – the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) will open up its first full Canadian office in Fall 2017 in Toronto. Why now?


THE THAI TOUCH

27 JUN 2017: I place my feet into the round wooden bowl filled with bright red hibiscus petals and a warm mixture of milk and honey. As I sit in the spa’s treatment room soaking my feet my discoloured big toes and cracked heels are in stark contrast to the serene and beautiful setting. Mint, my Thai therapist seems oblivious to my pedi ugliness and gently scrubs and massages my feet with a compassionate smile. This is the Thai way - service with a kind face.

 


IT'S HAPPENING IN FLORIDA
A selection of new attractions, tours, hotels and events

14 JUN 2017: Visit Florida headed north recently to Montreal, Toronto and then Vancouver, to discuss what’s new in Florida – and there’s quite a bit - state capital Tallahassee, is being transformed into a series of multi-use trails named “Capital City to the Sea” which will weave together more than 600 miles of trails. It will run all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and incorporate trails for pedestrians, cyclists and include the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail.

 


WHAT ROLE DO TOURISM OFFICES PLAY

13 JUN 2017: Tourist offices and destination marketing organizations (DMOs) have played an important role in the tourism industry for decades. In recent years there have been substantial cuts to tourism office budgets with the Trump administration even looking at eliminating Brand USA entirely in its proposed budget. The Clinton administration did the same thing in 1995 disbanding the United States Travel and Tourism Administration. Are tourism offices in the age of the internet, online services and smart phones still relevant? Do travel agents still use or value tourist offices?

 


VISIT FLORIDA BUDGET APPROVED

13 JUN 2017: Visit Florida and the state’s tourism industry breathed a huge sigh of relief as the state legislature passed House Bill 1A, which will fund Visit Florida at US $76 million for the next fiscal year. Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran had previously introduced a proposed budget of only US $25 million for Visit Florida. Florida Governor Rick Scott and many others involved in the tourism industry lobbied hard against this drastic budget cut.

 


BLACK FOREST BATHING

30 MAY 2017: Forest bathing has become a health and eco-trend in recent years. Put simply it involves taking a walk in a forest and embracing nature’s sounds, scents and colours. The idea originated in the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, meaning “taking in the forest atmosphere.” The purpose is not to burn off calories with brisk walking but to deliberately slow your pace and absorb nature in its fullest. What better place for forest bathing then Southwest Germany’s The Black Forest. My bathing though will be both outdoors and indoors with the Relais & Châteaux’s Hotel Dollenberg as my base.

 


VISITING THE USA
A conundrum

17 MAY 2017: The Trump presidency with all its histrionics has created a dilemma not only for some Canadians but travellers from around the world. Will they continue to visit the United States or boycott travelling there until there is a change in administrations? It is a question that is coming up more frequently for both tour operators as well as agents and meeting planners. Should we penalize a whole country and stop visiting to send a message to its leaders?

 


PHILADELPHIA FREEDOM OF THE ARTS

17 MAY 2017: Freedom has never looked or tasted so good. Representatives from Visit Philadelphia stopped by Toronto last week. They brought along acclaimed Philly chef Sylva Senat and talented artist James Burns from Mural Arts Philadelphia to spread the good word on all things Philadelphia. The event for media was held appropriately enough at the renowned Gardiner Museum. Philadelphia’s and Toronto’s museum community have very close ties.

 


STARTING A FAMILY SPA TRADITION

02 MAY 2017: Visiting a spa is the perfect tonic for escaping the demands and stresses of work and family. While bringing the kids along to a spa resort might be the last thing parents want to do, family vacations where both children and parents indulge in spa treatments are becoming increasingly common. More spas are offering treatments specifically for little ones and teens. For agents this is a great opportunity to keep the whole family happy and pampered and at the same time offering something different.

 


OTTAWA
Showing Its Cool Side

18 APR 2017: Ottawa is cool. I'm not talking about the winter temperatures in Canada's capital but its emerging vibe as an enticing city to visit. Sure, Ottawa doesn't immediately spring to mind as a must-visit destination but it should, especially this year as Canada celebrates its 150th birthday. The welcome mat is already out – most recently it hosted the JUNO Awards. Politics was relegated to the backbenches while music took centre stage at numerous city venues.


FLOATATION THERAPY

04 APR 2017: Floatation therapy has gained popularity especially in the last few years. There are dozens of float centres across Canada as well as spas that offer floatation therapy. So, why float?


MAKING CANADA HOT FOR VISITORS

22 MAR 2017: As we say goodbye (hopefully very soon) to Old Man Winter it’s time to raise the bar and the temperatures and keep Canada as the “in” and “hot” destination for visitors. It is Canada’s 150th as well as Montreal’s 375th birthday in 2017 after all. There hasn’t been a more important birthday since 1967. It is also a crucial year for Canada’s tourism industry. There are many reasons why we need to seize this opportunity and the Canadian travel agent plays an important role in the success of attracting visitors both domestically and internationally.


WATER WELLNESS AT LIVING WATER RESORT

07 MAR 2017:  Water has been a natural healer for centuries.   The Roman soldiers over two thousand years ago would return from battle to soak in the Roman baths.  Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, firmly believed in the therapeutic properties of thermal water to fight disease.  In Bath, England, Britain’s only thermal waters, Queen Elizabeth 1 incorporated Bath as a city in 1590 and decreed that “thermal waters should be accessible to the public in perpetuity.”   I didn’t have to travel across the pond for my water therapy however – it was just 90 minutes away north of Toronto at the Living Water Resort & Spa in Collingwood, Ontario.


IS US TRAVEL IN PERIL

17 FEB 2017: The United States is in danger of losing significant market share and foreign visitors that could result in the loss of billions of dollars in tourism revenues.  It’s not only the “Trump Effect,” but a variety of factors from misinformed and reckless decisions made by US legislators to a crumbling transportation infrastructure.  Why should we care?  The issues and concerns affect all of those working in the travel industry.


CAPITALIZING ON WELLNESS

07 FEB 2017: Wellness matters and is making a significant impact on the world economy.   According to the recently released 2016 Global Wellness Economy Monitor by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) the worldwide wellness industry grew more than 10 percent to $3.72 trillion US from 2013-2015.  Yes that’s trillion.   In that same time period the global economy shrank almost four percent.  What is the number one wellness tourism market in the world and where does Canada rank?


HOTELS OF THE FUTURE

24 JAN 2017: The Travel Avatar books the client’s trip.  Robot concierges greet the guest arriving in the driverless car at the hotel entrance.  The guest proceeds to a non-staffed front desk and places their hand on a fingerprint scan machine. Entering the hotel guest room the lighting, design, and fixtures are adapted to the client’s precise specifications.  Is this the hotel of the future?  Will agents be involved in the booking process?

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